(this was a post from a week or two ago, but I made it a page by accident, so I am reposting it here. D’oh!)
This screenshot is from an article in the New York Times discussing whether or not they will need to “disconnect” President-Elect Obama from his Blackberry and email for security purposes. This was followed by an admission by Verizon that unauthorized employees had pried into Obama’s cell phone records. After reading these articles, I was struck by the following question:
If we disconnect out President from channels of electronic communication for security purposes, how will he get information? If we expect everything to be paper or oral communication, are we solely relying on other people to filter and pre-digest information to him? Who are these people, and why should we trust their perspective? Why are we isolating the Commander in Chief and making him rely on secondary rather than primary sources of information and communication?
I know there are huge security issues with electronic data. There are huge issues with printed data as well- an acticle in the Journal of the American Medical Association a number of years ago discussed who had access to your medical files- it was over 150 people- with no imprint of who had seen your file and who had not. To me, I look at this difference and see the analog way of producing information- typewriters, paper, copies, etc. is not inherently more secure than electronic data- it may be less secure in the paper shuffling, leaving things on the copy machine, etc. ways of dealing with information in the real world.
Electronic data, in contrast, can be encrypted, password protected, and you can get a digital fingerprint of whose been trying to tamper with your information. But once the information does get compromised in any way, there are no limits to how fast that news can travel. The unleashing of electronic data is like the unleashing of a virus- it’s spread is much more likely to be exponential than linear.
I’m not sure how we’re going to solve those problems, but I can assure you that cutting off all primary sources of information from the guy in charge of making decisions, and requiring him for security purposes to rely on secondary sources, no matter how trustworthy, is probably not the best answer.